Instagram could learn from Snapchat’s selfie features


Instagram and Snapchat don’t have a ton in common, but they are both image-focused social apps, and that alone invites some comparison. They both have filters, too, which means those filters can be compared. Unfortunately for Instagram, it’s not really a contest.

On one side, you have Instagram’s basic artsy hipster filters, making things a little sharper, a little redder, a little black and white, but essentially doing nothing that 30 seconds in an image editor can’t. Meanwhile, Snapchat has a rotating list of face-recognition masks (called “lenses”) that do everything from adding rainbow vomit to face-swapping, often with hilarious results.

Let me tell you; they are so much more fun than anything on Instagram, I can’t stop playing with them.

Snapchat has a rocky history, full of ups and downs. Noteworthy missteps include storing so-called transient snaps, asking people to pay to save snaps when phones can screenshot for free, and trying — and failing — to sell its lenses in a store. Taken together, these mistakes show that Snapchat isn’t really going at this with a plan in mind. They’re throwing concepts at the wall until something sticks.

This is in stark contrast with Instagram, which has hardly put forth anything but the most careful changes since Facebook took over. Instagram can learn a good lesson from this; smaller, more agile competitors capable of trying strange things can hit upon success a lot more easily than a relatively static site.

Now, I’m not necessarily saying that Instagram should implement the same sort of lenses as Snapchat. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try it, of course, probably because innovation is hard and imitation is easy. When you can vomit a rainbow into an Instagram video, you’ll know they gave up.

The fact is, Instagram filters just aren’t that interesting. The site started out hugely appealing to millennials, a hipster bastion of artistic photography. Then it was bought out and turned into a marketing platform that boasted huge engagement rates, and that’s always the death of innovation and attraction.

Meanwhile, Snapchat has over 100 million daily active users, primarily between the ages of 13 and 34. There are brands that would kill to access that audience. Instagram, for reference, has around 300 million monthly.

This is not to say that Snapchat isn’t a platform you can use for advertising. It is; in fact, it has one of the most mobile-centric ad platforms available. It’s not the ads that attract users, though, it’s the content.

Which brings us back to Snapchat’s lenses; a constantly changing list of effects full of casual amusement. Instagram’s filters are meant to be permanent additions to posts that sit for an indefinite time. Snapchat has always emphasized the transient nature of content on their site, which has reinforced the intimacy of communications. Even brands can have personal, one-to-one feeling engagement with users because you know what you’re seeing isn’t going to be around forever. It’s here, for you, right now. The lenses are the same way. They provide a bit of transient amusement, but they aren’t meant to be permanent fixtures to your posts in any way. They boost engagement without becoming so common they’re no longer interesting.

What can Instagram learn from this? I would say a few things. The first is simply that their audience is moving on. The relatively static and bland Instagram platform is losing ground to more dynamic broadcast social media. The youngest users are the hardest to capture — they always have been — but the key to doing so is keeping the platform interesting. Instagram’s decisions recently have all been focused on the business of Instagram, not on the entertainment or edification of their users.

Instagram’s expansion to the Web opened them up to a larger audience, but it also gradually removed the focus on candid photos with simple filters and no edits. Now, to differentiate yourself, you either throw an image through the Photoshop blender, or you can specifically not use a filter. It’s an image host and social network very similar to, at this point, Imgur or Flickr.

On top of all of that, Snapchat is just plain fun. There’s a bit of mystery, a bit of unpredictability, a bit of joy that comes from using the app, and Instagram’s filters can’t compare to that experience. Cool as Snapchat’s lenses are, I really hope Instagram doesn’t just outright copy them. That could be the final nail in the coffin for them with the jaded youth audience.

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How international startups are supporting New York City

New York City skyline Immigrants make up 13.3 percent of the population in the U.S., which is the highest percentage the country has seen in more than 100 years. Now let’s put this into perspective: Thirty-six percent of all top tech founders in the U.S. are immigrants — almost triple the percentage of immigrants in the country. Many immigrants are pushing innovation in the U.S, aiding the country… Read More

Jury awards Hulk Hogan $115M in sex tape lawsuit against Gawker

ST PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 08:  NY POST OUT  Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, testifies in court during his trial against Gawker Media at the Pinellas County Courthouse on March 8, 2016 in St Petersburg, Florida.  Bollea is taking legal action against Gawker in a USD 100 million lawsuit for releasing a video of him having sex with his best friends wife.  (Photo by John Pendygraft-Pool/Getty Images) A Florida jury sided today with wrestling star Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bolea) in his lawsuit against Gawker. Hogan was awarded $115 million — $55 million for economic injuries and $60 million for emotional distress. That’s even more than the $100 million that Hogan was seeking, and the jury’s scheduled to return Monday to deal with punitive damages on top of that.… Read More

Microsoft apologizes for GDC party with scantily clad dancers

A Microsoft logo is seen at a pop-up site for the new Windows 10 operating system at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, New York July 29, 2015.

(By Anya George Tharakan, Reuters) – Microsoft apologized for hiring dancers dressed as skimpily-clad schoolgirls for its Game Developer Conference (GDC) afterparty in San Francisco on Thursday night, responding to media reports citing attendees’ pictures on Twitter and Instagram.

“It has come to my attention that at Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values,” Microsoft’s head of Xbox Phil Spencer said in a statement.

“That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated,” Spencer said.

Photos purportedly from the party surfaced on Twitter and Instagram, with many users expressing their anger at Microsoft’s actions.

“I like dancing, I like talking to devs. But not at this #GDC16 party. Thanks for pushing me out of this party, Microsoft,” Tin Man Games editor Kamina Vincent tweeted.

Microsoft had hosted a “Women in Gaming” luncheon at the GDC earlier that day.

Spencer added that the matter would be dealt with internally.

Technology companies been facing intense scrutiny over diversity and compensation equity issues.

Many big firms say there is a dearth of qualified women to hire, but many critics say the firms are not doing enough to attract and retain women.

(Reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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2016 Honda Civic: autonomous features for $20K

2015 Honda Civic Sedan When NHTSA announced yesterday that 20 manufacturers had agreed to include automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems as standard equipment on all new cars by 2022, many people noted that plenty of cars you can buy right now have this technology on board. You might think that in 2016, this is expensive equipment available only on luxury cars, but the Honda Civic sedan would beg to differ.… Read More

Fear or greed: Why are Australian banks cutting off Bitcoin businesses?

Australia's 'Big 4' banks.

Throughout 2015, Bitcoin exchanges, mining, and trading firms in Australia received letters from their bankers. The message was the same; the commercial banks were withdrawing their services. The banks gave little explanation for the move, but these termination of service notices set a dangerous precedent that other countries could follow.

“Our members have been unable to obtain any formal clarification on the reasons for closure, except for references to policy or risk. Just what policies or risks these are have not been specified,” Ron Tucker, ex-chairman of industry body The Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association, complained back in September.

At that point the Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan wrote to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to request for an investigation into a likely collusion amongst commercial banks to stifle what could turn out to be their competition.

“It appears to me to be an amazing coincidence that a number of large banks have all of a sudden decided to deny services to fledgling Bitcoin and digital currency operators,” Canavan observed in the letter.

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, who chaired the Senate Economics References Committee hearing into digital currency, also noted the development. “I am concerned that there is an allegation that Australian banks are deliberately choking small businesses, while setting themselves up to offer the same services,” he opined.

He also pointed out that the same commercial banks were building blockchain solutions.

But on February 15, the ACCC appeared to sanction the shutout, with the press reporting that ACCC Chairman Rod Sims had replied to Canavan saying that Australian commercial banks have done nothing wrong in denying Bitcoin companies services.

“It appears that banks have individually decided to stop providing banking services to digital-currency businesses in order to ensure their ability to meet their regulatory obligations and manage their risk,” Sims explained in his letter.

The termination-of-service letters have not just come from a few banks. There seems to have been a coordinated effort across all the main commercial banks to avoid serving Bitcoin enterprises. By the turn of the New Year, close to 20 Bitcoin companies found themselves without accounts.

Of course, as in many other parts of the world, it is not easy for any company to conduct business without a bank account. And that does not exclude enterprises involved with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. At least not until cryptocurrencies are widely accepted.

And just this month, on March 9, Bitcoin Group Ltd. announced that it has withdrawn its IPO after failing to meet Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) requirements.

The ASX wanted Bitcoin Group to procure a working capital report from an independent accounting firm. According to Bitcoin group, this is “a report not specifically required for a listing on the ASX. “

ASX itself is said to be working on a blockchain platform for its operations.

While the government has officially dismissed accusations of a conspiracy, stakeholders are still left wondering if the banks are trying to squeeze out their competition or are indeed just responding to the regulatory environment outlined by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

The development has elicited strong reactions from Bitcoin enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and the local Bitcoin community. Those on social media were first to point the finger at banks for squeezing Bitcoin companies in Australia. But they quickly accepted that banks are private businesses and that their business is not guaranteed, especially to companies getting ready to displace their incumbency.

If the commercial banks are simply responding to the regulatory environment set forth by the Reserve Bank of Australia, then it is the responsibility of the Bitcoin community to unify together under the ADCCA (Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association) and form a code of practice that gives the banks an industry they cannot plausibly ignore any longer.

In the event that the big 4 (the major banks in Australia that control the market) still decide to deny Bitcoin businesses, smaller banks may seize the opportunity to embrace the industry their bigger peers are afraid of.

Rupert Hackett is the Community Manager at He specializes in the digital currency and digital payment space and is currently studying the world’s first Master’s in digital currencies alongside entrepreneurship. He writes for multiple bitcoin websites and regularly blogs for

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Jack Dorsey says Twitter is keeping its 140-character limit, but maybe don’t get too excited

jack dorsey Has Twitter reversed course on plans to increase the character limit on tweets? That’s what you might think when reading the press coverage of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s appearance on The Today Show, but I’m not convinced that there was really a big change of heart. You may recall Re/code’s report in January that Twitter was looking at a “10,000 character limit… Read More

Apple is ‘doing what’s right’ in iPhone encryption case, former CEO John Sculley says

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley.

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley believes that his old company is doing an excellent job in the debate with the U.S. government over helping it decrypt San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone.

Sculley laid out his views on the subject in an interview today with VentureBeat. Here’s what he said:

I have a very strong opinion [on the subject]. I think Tim Cook has handled this situation extremely well. In fact he’s done such a good job at it that I’m sure he’ll end up being a Harvard Business School case history of how an executive manages a crisis.

They obviously have issues that need to be, you know, appreciated and understood and clarified regarding security. Nobody wants terrorists doing bad things. But the reality is to go out and take a look at the 1789 All Writs Act law and use that as an example, and they say they want to create a precedent to open up privacy on people’s smartphones — I think that was, you know not well thought out before they went and did that.

Absolutely, I think they’re doing what’s right. What Tim Cook has said — he said, “Look, it’s not Apple’s role to determine law. … We have the Constitution, we have Congress, and we have Supreme Court. Let’s do it the way we do things in other big issues in the history of the country. Let Congress weigh in and let the Supreme Court weigh in. Why should Apple be the one that has to determine all these things?”

The way the law is now on privacy and freedom of speech, I think Tim Cook has handled it exactly as he should.

It’s not surprising to see Sculley sticking up for the company he used to run, but he is one more prominent person taking Apple’s side in this complex controversy. Other technology executives, such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, have also announced their support for the iPhone maker.

Sculley, author of the 2014 book Moonshots, has been busy as of late. He’s a cofounder of Obi Worldphone, a company selling low-priced Android phones in Asia, the Middle East, and South Africa. And he’s more directly involved with PeoplePicker, a company that maintains a database of pay rates for every job in the U.S., and RxAdvance, a company seeking to lower pharmaceutical costs using big data analytics.

For a full rundown of the Apple-FBI case, check out our timeline.

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Watch a PC running AMD and Nvidia graphics cards at the same time

AMD and Nvidia are now to great flavors that taste great together.

Wondering what it looks like when AMD and Nvidia video cards are sitting in the same computer, running a program together? Here’s what it looks like — and how it changes performance for the graphics-intensive real-time strategy game, Ashes of the Singularity.

In the video above, Oxide Games’ Dan Baker shows how the game runs before and after adding an Nvidia card to a system running on with an AMD card already installed. Stardock CEO Brad Wardell narrates. They took the video during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week.

This enables you to use AMD and Nvidia video cards in one PC, and you don’t need cumbersome setups like AMD’s CrossFire or Nvidia’s SLI (which link multiple cards together — but only of the corresponding manufacturer, and the cards must be identical). You just plug into your existing PCIe ports.

This will allow people to add better cards incrementally, saving money by adding less expensive cards than upgrading to a pricey on (or buying two for CrossFire or SLI). It’ll also help people get ready for virtual reality, which requires high-end GPUs to run.

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